Arnold Schwarzenegger returns in the fifth film of the franchise, Terminator Genisys, but will the plot’s time travelling antics successfully reboot the series?
I have a deep love for the Terminator franchise. The original film, a low budget sci-fi feature, was originally released in 1984. Like most of my generation, I saw this film on home video. For me it was several years before I was legally supposed but that didn’t matter. I loved it from my first viewing.
The first film directed by James Cameron, like many, consider it a classic piece of science fiction cinema. It has a simple plot that’s easy to follow and almost the whole film is an excellent chase story, the Terminator versus Sarah Conner.
In 1991 James Cameron returned with ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’, a brilliant sequel that raised the bar for action films and which looked very expensive to create. Not surprisingly the film set a new record for the time with an astounding budget of $94 million. These action scenes were further enhanced with the use of early pioneering CGI work to help bring the shape shifting T-1000 Terminator to life as portrayed by Robert Patrick.
‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines’ bought us our first female Terminator played by Kristanna Loken and was directed by Jonathan Mostow (U-571, Surrogates). Set after the events of ‘Terminator 2’, the story continues with Skynet trying to kill all of the people who will eventually become the lieutenants and generals serving under John Conner during the great future war that’s always been glimpsed but never expanded on in previous films.
The film pretty good in my opinion (but not up to par with T2) and I really liked the way ended on a down beat note with John Conner having failed to shut down Skynet.
I was very interested to see where the film series would go next and I wondered if we would finally see a film set during the future wars. A time period that has only been featured in small segments during the first three films.
What came next was just that…almost! ‘Terminator Salvation’ directed by McG (Charlie’s Angels I & II) bought us that future world where John Conner is trying to survive in a war against the Terminators. Meanwhile Skynet uses a new tactic to try and wipe out humanity.
‘Terminator Salvation’ I remember being a not bad film. I own it on blu-ray so I must like it to some degree, but I’ve been meaning to watch it again to see if it really deserves all the negative press of recent times.
Now six years later, after a lengthy legal battle to sort out legal rights of ownership, we have Terminator Genisys. Directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World, Game of Thrones), I had high hopes for this film but those started to wane once the marketing machine kicked in.
The first stills from the film were released by Entertainment Weekly magazine in the US and they were quite frankly laughable. Maybe the first trailers would improve the situation?
I waited for the first trailers and unfortunately these didn’t install much confidence in me either. Featuring over the top action sequences and seemingly nearly every major plot point from the film spelled out in some detail. They left me disappointed but as a Terminator fan I was still cautiously optimistic.
The story of the film involves a lot more time travelling than usual with several jumps through time. Opening at the end of the future war, we watch the resistance finally taking out Skynet and winning the war against the machines. John Conner leads the resistance to discover Skynet’s secret weapon, a time travel machine.
As all Terminator fans will know, John Conner will select Kyle Reese to travel into the past to protect Sarah Conner and we see all this unfold before our eyes.
With the some pretty nifty use of CGI the film almost perfectly recreates the opening of the original Terminator film with both Kyle’s and the original T-800’s arrival in 1984. However, not is all as it seems.
While the original T-800 tries to take the clothes from the group of punks, another older T-800 (i.e. present day Arnold Schwarzenegger) turns up and fights the new arrival which ends with Sarah Conner taking out the Terminator with a high powered sniper rifle.
The film switches to Kyle Reese and again ‘Terminator Genisys’ recreates the original1984 footage of him breaking into a department store to avoid the police and acquire new clothes in the process. However this time he is attacked by a T-1000 model Terminator.
While he does his best to keep the killing machine at bay, Sarah Conner turns up to save his life. These two events skew a different timeline to the original which has run through the first four films. Now ‘Terminator Genisys’ has its own story to tell.
From here on in the film is a puzzle with the viewer trying to work out what the hell is going on, in regards to the timeline. Whilst the film is self-contained and easy to follow, I was quite annoyed that a major piece of back story isn’t fully explained (i.e. plot hole). Allegedly this is to be explored in further films, but after viewing ‘Terminator Genisys’, I don’t know if I want to watch any more instalments.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as the terminator is what you’d normally expect but unfortunately they throw in all the usual references and catchphrases from previous films that make it feel tired and stale. There’s also a repeating of some comic elements that were rightly deleted from ‘Terminator 2’. Teaching a Terminator to smile makes for cringe worthy viewing.
Sarah Conner is played by Emilia Clarke who many will know as Daenerys Targaryen from HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’. Emilia is probably the best part of the film and portrays a Sarah Conner that I think Linda Hamilton (Sarah in Terminator 1 & 2) would approve of.
The leader of the future resistance, John Conner is played by Jason Clarke in a fashion I can only call okay. Considering he was the villain of the film, I don’t find his performance very memorable or noteworthy.
A lot of secrecy was made of a character played by Matt Smith who is most famous for playing the eleventh Doctor in the popular BBC television show ‘Doctor Who’. It is a major plot point that I shall not spoil here but it’s also a very small part and after viewing the film all the hype doesn’t feel worthy of the role.
Finally that leads me to Kyle Reese, this time around brought to life by Jai Courtney. I knew from the start there was no way he could match the original performance of Michael Biehn (Terminator 1 & 2 (Extended edition only)).
I wasn’t impressed with Jai’s performance alongside Bruce Willis in ‘A Good Day To Die Hard’ (Review) and I hoped he had improved since. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and his turn as Reese was simply lacklustre.
The action was admittedly quite good but it does just feel like a rehash of the earlier films, almost like a ‘best of’ compilation. This isn’t helped by a ridiculous physics defying bus flip that you’ve all seen in the trailers. The stunt removes you from the moment and ruins the scene.
The final nail in the coffin for me was the ‘Terminator Genisys’ running time which was just shy of two hours, although for me it felt like five. There is something wrong with the films pacing and I felt drained by the time the film had finally ended.
This was a gallant attempt at revitalising the Terminator franchise but unfortunately it didn’t do it for me. Arnold, please don’t come back.